“I have my first interview in a couple weeks for a PR internship. Do you have any advice?”
A young lady asked me that question last week after I spoke to the Public Relations Student Society of America chapter at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire
I considered the obvious tips: research the company, know the dress code, etc. We’ve heard them before. If not, follow the quarterly Help A PR Pro Out (HAPPO) chats for more.
What about those tips that fly beneath the radar? After all, when you’re applying for these internships and jobs, you’re competing with hundreds of other kids. This is not a game, this is a battle—and your future is at stake.
If you’re serious about your search, I have eight “off the beaten path” tips for that first PR interview:
Be conversational with the receptionist or administrative assistant.
Might not seem like a big deal, but in some ways, the administrative assistant will be the most important person you meet at that interview. Later in the day, the hiring manager will walk by the front desk and ask the assistant what he or she thought of you. Make sure the answer is overwhelmingly positive.
Follow up … with resources
You’ll be ahead of half the competition if you follow up after the interview. You’ll be ahead of 99.9 percent of the competition if you follow up with resources.
What do I mean?
As a final piece to your follow-up note, send the hiring manager an interesting article you read in the last week around a topic you discussed, a recent case study that’s relevant, a new social media tool that might be of interest based on your conversation, and so on.
The useful information you share will stand out. You’ll position yourself as a resourceful employee and someone who takes initiative.
Ask your own questions—about the interviewer
Based on another insider tip: Always make a list of questions to ask the interviewer (another thing I’m always surprised more people don’t do in an interview setting).
I’d take it one step further. Develop questions to ask the interviewer about the role and company and
add a few about the interviewer. Personalize the questions. Research the interviewer online before you meet and tailor questions to the person’s specific interests. The interviewer will be pleasantly surprised (as long as you’re not creepy about it).
Make sure you talk about one client campaign
Especially at an agency, make sure you work one client campaign into the discussion. It will show that you know their client roster, and it will demonstrate that you can talk intelligently about their work in a pressure-packed environment.
Use interactive media to your advantage
Do you have video-editing experience (which is a huge skill for younger professionals)? Why not show your clip in the interview on an iPad or your iPhone? Maybe you created your résumé in a Prezi
? Those look pretty darn cool on an iPad, too. Use technology to your advantage.
Show confidence and humility
Employers definitely want confident young people. But they also want people who are humble and who know how to work well with others. Be confident, but don’t be afraid to show a little humility.
Write a post for the company blog
This tip might seem a little aggressive, but if you really want to separate yourself from the competition, consider writing a post for the company blog.
Pick a topic. If it’s an agency, maybe it’s a post about a recent social media trend. If it’s a corporate blog, you could address a topic they’ve already covered, except do it from your unique perspective. Writing a post for the company blog will demonstrate initiative, creativity, and critical thinking. All qualities they’re most likely looking for in an ideal candidate.
Make sure your leave-behind is memorable
Lastly, make sure whatever it is you leave behind after the interview sticks in that hiring manager’s memory. Whether it’s your résumé or a collection of clips, your leave behind is a big opportunity to carve out a place in the hiring manager’s brain.
Do you have any tips for those young people facing their first PR interviews this spring?
Arik C. Hanson is the principal of ACH Communications, a digital communications consultancy. He blogs at Communications Conversations, where a version of this story originally appeared.